ACM SIGGRAPH
Director for Communications
Annual Report

Leo Hourvitz, July 2002

The Communications activity for ACM SIGGRAPH encompasses three areas: overall communications and publicity, membership and member communications, and website activities. Each is discussed below.

Overall Communications and Publicity

We have continued to use the identification campaign of the last two years, focusing on our key positioning statements:

 

We have attempted to start generating more publicity for our non- conference programs, with only limited success. We are contacted by the press regularly but infrequently (about once a month), usually for background information on some story involving computer graphics (and almost always focusing on some part of the entertainment aspect of our business). I have tried to provide non-attributed background information to the reporters, however we have yet to develop an effective response system for reporters on deadline. Raising ACM SIGGRAPH's profile as "the voice of computer graphics" is an important goal for fulfilling our mission.

Membership and Member Communications

Membership Proposition

Three years ago, ACM SIGGRAPH redefined its basic membership proposition to no longer depend on the traditional sense of joining a professional society as a matter of course. Our new proposition (known internally as "The Sierra Club Appeal"), is that ACM SIGGRAPH is a organization which helps the community and therefore is worthy of our members' support. In recognition of their support, we offer some membership benefits, but we don't expect those to provide the primary reason for their support; our activities and values should be the primary reason.

Membership Status

As summarized in the chart below, ACM SIGGRAPH had been experiencing a 5-10% per year decline in total membership for over ten years, despite a dramatic decrease in the cost of entry-level membership. Just prior to the beginning of the 2000-2001 year, we saw a levelling out and modest increase in membership levels. We don't know at this point whether this is a sustainable trend (ACM's SIG membership reporting pages recently changed format making comparisons to long-term data impossible).

ACM's membership retention reports do make it clear that the SIGGRAPH membership is bifurcated into two groups: there is a slowly shrinking but fairly stable group of longer-term members, most of whom are also ACM members; and a fluctuating (but overall growing) group, most of whom are not ACM members, and who are members for only one or two years and leave. At the moment these groups each appear to be about half our membership. Also, see our membership survey (below) for more information about the membership composition.

ACM SIGGRAPH Membership Structure

ACM SIGGRAPH membership is separate from ACM membership. Our current membership levels (only one-year memberships are available) are:

Full membership $27/year
Student membership $20/year
Joint member with Eurographics $20/year

 

A large number of optional publications may be purchased with ACM SIGGRAPH membership, including the annual conference publications and an array of around 30 Member Value Plus publications.

In 2002, we agreed in principle to split the Member Value Plus publications out from the main membership promotion, and provide a separate Member Value Plus promotional mailer which would go out to new or renewing members. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure descriptions of all publications from the Director for Publications in order to produce this piece.

2001-2002 Membership Communication Programs

Our primary member communication vehicles are the siggraph.org website, our booth at the annual conference, and the printed "GIP" (General Information Piece) which is produced for the conference each year. The website is discussed under online; here we look at the GIP and other activities.

The GIP is currently an oversize multi-fold piece professionally designed and produced (at this time, by the same graphic design firm which holds the conference graphic design contract). The GIP is distributed in several ways. The largest numerical distribution occurs at the annual conference, where the GIP is stuffed into the merchandise bags of full conference or conference select registrants. We have also been proactive about circulating copies of the GIP to the SIGGRAPH chapters around the world, and making sure plenty of copies are available whenever ACM SIGGRAPH has a co-sponsored or in-cooperation event (such as our cooperation agreements with a number of societies around the world).

We have also found it is critical to aggressively use the organization booth at the annual conference to promote membership. We now refer to this part of the booth as the "Membership Counter" and coach all volunteers that they are there to promote membership. We provide multiple computers at the booth to enable members to sign up on the spot; at SIGGRAPH 2000, we signed up over 500 members during the week.

In 2000, we have tried a direct mail campaign to non-member conference attendees. This produced no appreciable response (at considerable expense).

With the assistance of ACM Information Systems staff, an online application for joining ACM SIGGRAPH without navigating the cumbersome ACM Store interface was deployed in 1999. It has been tremendously successful and handles a large percentage of our new membership (we don't know how renewals occur). It would be greatly advantageous to have a similarly streamlined process for purchasing MVP publications and SVRs as single copy purchases.

We re-established a basic new member welcome letter and a lapsed member mailing. We continued our efforts through SGB to secure ACM SIGGRAPH-specific membership cards. This has so far not come to fruition, thus leaving unsatisfied a major gripe reported by ACM SIGGRAPH-specific members: when they join, they receive nothing acknowledging their membership. We will continue to work at resolving this issue through SGB and hope for more cooperation and understanding of our issues in the future.

The 2002 Membership Survey

At the SIGGRAPH 2001 conference, for the first time ever, we took a membership-oriented survey. It was conducted at a conference social event under very difficult circumstances. For 2002, one of our goals was to conduct a survey among members in a more controlled fashion. We developed a reusable online survey system, and emailed 1200 randomly selected members in February 2002. After failed emails, about 21% responded; three randomly selected respondents were selected to receive a $100 gift certificate from amazon.com (all three receipients were pleased with this choice of prize). A report of all survey results is available at http://www.siggraph.org/gen-info/strategic_planning/2002SurveySummary.html. Some results were:

 

There was a wealth of detail generated. It is highly recommended to continue conducting annual surveys on this topic, whether among members or potential members; the online survey system makes this a low-overhead operation.

www.siggraph.org Website

The website and related activities have been the primary source of activity and attention during this year for the Communications activity. Some planning responsibility for this has been shared with the ACM SIGGRAPH Directors-at-Large, Gudrun Enger and David Ebert (especially in regards to the conference-related Online activity).

Archival

The traditional function of the Director for Communications as the secretary of the organization is now reflected in the responsibility for overseeing updates to the many sections of the website which provide organizational history. Here is a partial list:

 

This year we added some important new sections to our site:

 

We also are actively recruiting for a volunteers to establish a Computer Graphics Glossary on the site, as well as to conduct a regular "Ask Dr. SIGGRAPH" computer graphics advice column.

Computing Resource

Another significant area has been the expansion of the siggraph.org machines as a information resource for all other parts of the organizaton. Although we continue to expand this role, this year we greatly expanded the scope of our hosting program for chapter websites (with separate virtual hosts for each chapter); starting hosting a chapters database; developed the online survey system mentioned above (the LA chapter ran a survey on it); and brought in-house a scheduling application used by both the organization and the conference committees for scheduling meetings and staffing of events during the conference. We plan to continue to expand this area of service to the remainder of the organization.

SIGGRAPH Online

As mentioned in the survey, access to recorded audio or video presentations from the annual conference was rated very highly by the respondents. In 2001, the SIGGRAPH Online program of the conference recorded approximately 100GB of video and audio from conference sessions. The CAG and the EC agreed that this program made more sense as part of the archival orientation of the organization than within a conference committee, and thus from 2002 forward it will be run through the organization in some manner. The SIGGRAPH 2002 Online committee was refocused narrowly on the major presentation rooms in San Antonio and is preparing to execute on archiving those.

Because the video material used was beyond ACM IS's ability to support, ACM SIGGRAPH has purchased 2 480GB NAS units to hold the data. The SIGGRAPH 2001 data has been ported to this unit but still physically resides at the Naval Postgraduate School in Montery, California. The SIGGRAPH 2002 data will be placed on the other unit, and both will be forwarded to ACM IS in New York.

Computer Infrastructure

We have completed our transition to residing with ACM IS's operations facility in New York (with the above-noted exception), and have developed good working relationships with the staff there. We are now hosted on a number (currently two) of Linux- based Intel machines and obtain our bandwidth, support, and backup as part of ACM. We will also integrate more tightly with their security and domain management procedures.

In order to provide more timely service to customers of the siggraph.org systems, we engaged the part-time professional services of a system administrator. After a RFP process, we selected Ken Bauer to provide these services. Although demand for his services has been batchy (as might be expected in this role), demands have arisen from a number of units (including the 100 or so members who now have a siggraph.org email address). Ken has also greatly helped in increasing the security level of the machines. We did not have any major security issues on our machines in the most recent year (let's hope it stays that way), although we do have a number of security upgrades that are being delayed until post- conference.

We continue to count on volunteers for new system installations and primary software work on the machines in the form of the System Manager's Group. Supervised by our Information Director, this group has played a big role in creating the utility of the machines as a computing resource for the organization.

Future Issues

The conference recently switched conference application programming firms for the first time since the web was established. The siggraph.org groups (especially system managers) will need to work well with the new contractor to ensure that both new and ongoing functions of the machines are smoothly fulfilled. The new contractor joined the group well prior to bringing up any software and we look forward to a smooth operation.

Another issue that needs to be addressed in the near future is some way to use the user authentication systems of the ACM DL to authenticate users seeking services on siggraph.org. In particular, we would like to restrict access to the SIGGRAPH Online material to members, but we don't want to force members to create yet another username/password to do so. This and other integration issues need to continue to be investigated with ACM IS.